Newsletter No. 1 • June 2016

Education news


As of 1 January 2016, IVM coordinates the bachelor programme Earth Sciences and Economics (in Dutch: Aarde en economie) together with the Department for Earth Sciences. Responsibility for a bachelor curriculum is new at IVM.

Earth Sciences and Economics is a success since its founding in 2006. The bachelor attracts ~80 students per year. About 60 finish, ~75% of them in three years. The program is evaluated by students and experts as best in its type in the country (http://www.vu.nl/nl/nieuws-agenda/nieuws/2015/okt-dec/drie-vu-bacheloropleidingen-topopleiding-in-keuzegids-2016.aspx), and distinctly scores on its content and research skills.

Earth Sciences and Economics was an initiative by the Department for Earth Sciences, in close cooperation with the department Spatial Economics (FEWEB, economic faculty), as a demand for more students in Earth Sciences. For the bachelor program in Earth Sciences candidates need a background in physics and chemistry at secondary school. By offering a more society oriented program, also students with a background in geography and economics, without chemistry and physics, could be welcomed.

The curriculum consists of three main educational directions (in Dutch: leerlijnen) up to third year level: one in earth sciences of the surface, one in spatial economics and one in applied research on the interface of the first two. Earth Sciences and Economics is a field of study on finding the optimal way to use our resources and how we can adapt the use of space to changes of the natural system.

The applied interdisciplinary research subjects – about 40% of the curriculum – are focused on the human scale. Students visit research areas in fieldwork every year of their study program to collect their own data. So, apart from regular desktop methods like GIS and data mining, students use field methods like questionnaires, drilling the subsoil, hydrochemical field analysis, flow rate measurements, stakeholder interviews, vegetation counting and more.

The research themes during these fieldworks were always inspired by (potential) problems in the field location, for example flooding prevention, flooding mitigation, precipitation water storage, geotourism, erosion and agriculture, energy production and improvement of natural values in the landscape. However, too little topics were based on the final ‘product’ of the bachelor program: what exactly do these students need to learn? What techniques should they be able to use? Which research themes at the participating departments fit the scope of Earth Sciences and Economics?

The centralization of IVM research in the interdisciplinary educational direction of the curriculum will now fill this gap in the focus of the study program. It makes the program more robust and it will stimulate students to choose for our future VU-UvA master programs in the Environmental domain. We will also educate our ideal PhD’s in this way. The content and approach of certain subjects and possibly even the curriculum may need to be restructured to achieve this. Perhaps the name of the bachelor may be chosen catchier and better referring to what we do at IVM. Everyone is invited to think with us!

Coordinator: Mark Bokhorst (m.p.bokhorst@vu.nl)

More on Earth Sciences and Economics at IVM: http://ivm.vu.nl/en/bsc-msc-and-phd-rograms/bsc-earth-science-and-economics/index.aspx

Web page for upcoming students (in Dutch): www.vu.nl/aardeeneconomie


Author: Mark Bokhorst